What is Personnel Management and Industrial Relations?

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By: Site Engineer, Staff

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Personnel management and industrial relations are two of the most critical functions performed by managers in business organizations. All the activities of any enterprise are initiated and determined by the persons who make up the institution. Plants, offices, computers, automated equipment and all else that a modern firm uses are unproductive except for human effort and direction. Of all the task of management, managing the human component is the central and most important part, because all else depends upon how well it is done. Personnel administration is that enterprise function which is specifically concerned with managing the human component in organizations.

This article focuses on specific attention to the evolution, as well as current practices in the personnel field, in African’s indigenous organizations.

Who Actually Does Personnel Work?

The above question may appear relatively simple to answer at first. To answer the question ‘who do personnel work?’ requires that we differentiate between the personnel functions of all managers and supervisors and the personnel functions of personnel managers.

The Personnel Functions of All Managers

All managers and supervisors, who in one way or another have responsibility for the performance of one or more subordinates in the organization, have personnel functions. These functions are those that deal especially with the human relations aspects of the interaction, between the manager, or supervisor, and the subordinates. Thus, the manager must motivate the subordinates to perform. He or she can do this by providing effective leadership and ensuring that the subordinates are adequately rewarded. The manager must also develop an effective means of communication.

Apart from these areas, the manager is often involved in determining such issues as who goes for training and who gets promoted. The manager will also be in involved in the discipline of subordinates. While human relations functions of the manager are his core personnel functions, these other personnel functions are also equally important. Perhaps the best way of illustrating the fact that all managers, irrespective of their functional area of specialization and their location within the organizational hierarchy and perform personnel functions would be to examine the skills that all managers require for the performance of their functions.

Skills Required by Managers

These skills are of the three types; human, technical and conceptual. Human skills refer to the ability of the manager to handle interpersonal relations. Thus, they include the ability of the manager to build team spirit and to be able to work efficiently with others, in order to achieve set goals. Technical skills, on the other hand, derive from the manager’s knowledge of the specific methods, processes, and techniques required for the performance of particular work activity. These skills differ, depending upon the work activity being considered.

Finally, connectional skills relate to the ability of the manager to see the interrelationship between the various parts of the organization, as well as that between the entire organization and the environment. It is the ability to see the forest apart from the trees, and on this basis, to be able to coordinate and integrate the parts. While conceptual skills are required most by those who direct the entire affairs of the organization, technical skills are required most by those in junior management positions. Human skills, on the other hand, are required equally by all managers, irrespective of their location within the organizational hierarchy.

The Personnel Functions of Personnel Managers

The person designated personnel manager performs all the personnel functions of all managers. Besides performing these functions, however, he or she usually has competence in a technical sense in dealing with people-related problems. These aspects of the personnel managers’ work are those that are properly designated as the technical or personnel functions of personnel managers. These functions divide broadly into two groups: staff functions and line functions.

The Staff Functions of the Personnel Manager

The staff functions of the personnel manager’s work are those areas, where the personnel manager acts more or less in an advisory capacity to other managers. In these circumstances, the personnel manager usually does not have the authority to commit the organization to a final course of action. Among these staff functions are:

  • Policy initiation and information;
  • Advice;
  • Service;
  • Control.

Policy Initiation and Formulation

A policy is a statement of intention of committing management to a general course of action. The personnel manager helps in initiating policies in virus personnel areas. Usually, there are six principal bases for initiating and formulating such policies:

  1. Past practice in the organization;
  2. Prevailing practices and policies among other business organizations in the same industry and in the same country generally;
  3. The attitudes and philosophies of top management, owners, the board of directors, etc.;
  4. The knowledge and experience gained from handling personnel problems in the past;
  5. The attitudes of other employees in the organization, including those of the unions where they exist;
  6. Government legislation and policies on wages, conditions of work, and labor relations problems generally.

Apart from initiating and formulating policies, the personnel manager also helps in communicating stated policies. Such policies are usually written down, in order to standardize and let everyone know what kind of treatment they can expect to receive from management in the anticipated circumstances.

Advice

The personnel manager is also very much involved in counseling and advising other operating managers, on numerous problems and procedures. The manager who wants to give an employee accelerated promotion, or terminate an employee’s appointment, usually seeks the advice of the personnel manager, as the first could upset established procedures and expectations, while the second could lead to serious industrial relations problems.

Service

The personnel manager renders numerous services to other operating departments. Such services often include designing and installing programmes in the areas of training and management development, performance appraisal, motivation, health, and safety. Other services rendered by the personnel manager include recruitment, selection, and placement of staff for other departments, settlement of disputes and grievances, etc.

Control

The personnel department monitors the performance of other departments against established personnel, procedures, and rules, with a view to taking corrective action. This is especially important in the areas of health and safety, discipline and discharge, and industrial relations.

The Line Functions of Personnel Managers

  • Employment (recruitment, selection, placement);
  • Transfer, promotion, layoff;
  • Training and development;
  • Wage and salary administration;
  • Health and safety;
  • Discipline and grievance handling;
  • Industrial relations;
  • Benefits and services;
  • Organization planning;
  • Manpower planning;
  • Job design and analysis;
  • Personnel and behavior research

Manpower Resources Planning: Basis of the Recruitment Programme

In the small business organization, recruitment decisions are taken in a sort of ‘putting out the fire’ fashion. Vacancies are filled as they occur, and the decision to increase or reduce the work-force is based on the ongoing experience of managers, with work activity. While this approach may do for the small organization, employing say, less than twenty individuals, it will be completely unsatisfactory in the larger organization. Adequate returns on this kind of expenditure and investment in human resources and related activities will occur only to the extent that they are themselves based on a comprehensive and clearly throughout manpower resources planning programme.

A comprehensive manpower resource planning programme starts with input from other sub-systems of the organization. For example, what is the rate of growth of the company? What changes in technology, markets, and even company objectives are being anticipated? At the level of description of available manpower pool, the question is to ascertain the nature of the present workforce, in terms of quantity (number of employees available in the various job categories, against actual needs) and quality (skills and talents available in relation to actual needs). It is this information which provides the real basis for the decision to recruit, select and place. Other components of the manpower planning system are directly relevant to the future development of the employees, as well as methods to be used in such development.

Recruitment, Selection, and Placement

We have already suggested that the success or failure of any organization is largely dependent upon the caliber of its workforce. However, what caliber of people comes to be employed in an organization is in turn determined to a very large extent by the quality of the organization’s recruitment, selection and placement policies and practices.

Recruitment

This is the process of seeking out and attracting employees to fill positions required, for the successful conduct of the affairs of the organization. Before embarking upon a recruitment exercise, an organization must decide between a number of key recruitment policy alternatives. These are whether:

  1. Recruitment will be on the basis of economic and efficiency considerations alone or whether it will combine with this what the organization may define, or have defined for it as its social responsibility in the society;
  2. Existing vacancies will be filled from within the organization, thereby enabling current employees to realize their expectations of personal growth and career progression, or from outside the organization, thereby bringing new talents and ideas into the organization;
  3. Recruitment will be based on some other selective criteria, such as ethnic and religious balancing, discrimination in favor of a particular sexual or political group, etc.

In the case of government-owned businesses, there is the additional choice between bending company recruitment policies to executive orders, or completely disregarding these orders in favor of a policy which is consistent with the objective of the organization. This policy alternative is closely related to 1 and 3 above.

The recruitment programme goes beyond choosing between alternative policies courses, to include the actual methods that are used in the creation of a pool of available and able labor, from which the organization may draw in times of need. These methods include advertising in newspapers, colleges, and universities, in order as they say, ‘to catch them young’. Other methods of recruitment are waiting for unsolicited applicants to report at the gates of the business organization, utilizing employment agencies and ‘headhunting’ in conferences and seminars. Additionally, however, and where a company pursues a policy of recruitment from within, other methods of recruitment, such as the secret review of employee’s personnel records and the open posting of jobs for competitive bidding are used. Again, some organizations announce to their own employees or unions that they are looking for additional people to fill existing vacancies.

Two other issues are important in the recruitment programme. Where recruitment is geared towards outside sources, then it is important that recruiters, as well as the advertisements that may be placed, do not oversell the job or the organization. Secondly, it is equally important that all hiring decisions are centralized in a particular department. The problem that may arise from lack of centralization is clearly illustrated in the case of a state-owned cement company where three young male employees reported to the wages office at the end of the month, only to be told that their names were not on the personnel records of the company. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the men had been employed by the Personnel Director (a political appointee) of the company, who had, however, not communicated his actions to Personnel Officer, charged with recruitment. The three men retained their jobs but only after a major conflict had occurred.

Selection

This next step in the employment programme is the process of choosing from the available pool of potential employees those judged qualified in terms of the requirements of the job and the organization. Four major policy issues must be resolved before the implementation of the selection procedures. These policies revolved around:

  1. What selection criteria? For example, what weighting should be given to qualifications, vis-a-vis experience, in judging a candidate’s suitability for a job?
  2. What selection method? Two major methods recommend themselves for use in the selection process; the successive hurdle method and the multiple correlation method. The first approach is based on the assumption that to be eligible for a job, a candidate must successfully meet all the job requirements or hurdles. The second method assumes, on the other hand, that deficiency may exist in one factor. Thus, under this approach, a candidate is routed through all the selection steps, and his or her rating is the composite score from all the steps. An organization must decide which of these two methods it will use in its selection procedure.
  3. What method of individual evaluation? Again, two basic methods – the pseudoscientific and scientific methods of individual evaluation are in use. The pseudoscientific method is based on personal judgment and biases. Thus, for example, managers relying on this method have assumed that they can infer a man’s personality and ability from the shape of his head, body build, and such other idiosyncratic criteria. Although simple to use, the fact is that human beings are too complex for such kinds of untested evaluation.

A more reliable method is the scientific procedure which consists of a battery of tests, carefully designed by industrial psychologists to measure human behavior and ability in various areas. Among such tests are aptitude tests, achievement tests, vocational interest tests, temperament and personality tests, situational tests and safety tests.

While the uses of carefully designed tests are important in any selection procedure, it is equally important to stress that they do not provide all the answers to the selection problem. The personnel manager must also be perceptive and aware of the environment of work, so that good judgment can be made as to whether a particular applicant will be well suited to a situation. That this is crucial is well illustrated by the following case examples.

Some time ago, a large pharmaceutical company in Nigeria employed a highly qualified and very attractive young lady to work as a stenographer in an office, where there were several male pharmacologists and two middle-aged female secretaries, who had been with the organization for several years. Although the young woman performed her work very well, and all the men, including her boss likely her, she was eventually forced to resign because of the antagonism of the two older women, who resented her popularity with the men. The implication is clear; managers may select applicants to meet with the requirements of the job. Additionally, however, the human factors in the situation may militate against effective performance in their jobs.

  1. What selection procedure? The issue here is the specific steps that could be followed in selecting applicants. The research conducted by the authors in many Nigerian indigenous organizations shows that the majority of these organizations has no formalized selection procedures. However, the experience of the more successful organizations shows that it makes sense to identify the specific steps that shall be followed, particularly in the selection of senior, professional and managerial personnel in the organization. Although it is usual for organizations to vary the sequence of steps in the selection procedure to reflect their needs, the following steps indicate the components of a typical selection procedure.
  2. Application blank (the applicant is made to complete an application form or write an application letter, giving relevant details which may be analyzed clinically or statistically)
  3. Employment interview (the applicant is interviewed using any of the numerous interview methods. The interview may be held more than once, with the first interviews serving as preliminary).

Selection tests (the applicant is tested during the interview using a combination of relevant tests).

  1. Investigation of applicant’s background (this may be done before or after the interview. Usually, the applicant supplies references. These references are however usually not as reliable as those whom the company obtains itself, from either the applicant’s previous employers, or schools the applicant attended, or neighbors of the applicant, or police records).
  2. Medical examination. Although most companies require applicants to produce evidence of mental and physical health, this is usually done after the company has made a decision to employ. However, this is a wrong procedure, particularly where the health of the applicant is a basic requirement for performance on the job. The medical examination should precede the decision to employ.
  3. Selection decision involves taking a decision on whether or not to employ the applicant. Some companies inform only successful applicants. However, it is essential that the organization retains the goodwill of those applicants who are adjudged at that particular time to be unqualified for the job.

Placement

The final stage in the employment function is placement, where the organization actually matches the individual with the demands and rewards of the job. Since this matching is often difficult, the status of the new employee on the job is often that of a probationer, which implies that both the employee and the organization are on trial. Placement often consists of three sub-processes:

  1. Orientation: The employee is helped to find his place within the organization and to feel that he/she is among friends;
  2. Induction: The employee is given information as to what he/she is actually expected to do – on and off the job; and
  3. Preliminary Follow-up: The employee is interviewed after being on the job for a specific period, in order to ascertain the extent to which the expectations of the organizations towards him and his own expectations towards the organization have been successfully met.

Wages and Salary Administration

An important function of the personnel manager and the personnel department is the administration of wages and salaries. Although conventional usage reserves the term ‘wage’ for payment of workers, and salaries for payment of senior categories of staff, developments in the industry have tended to blur the distinction, as all categories of staff have to receive their payments, not in cash, but by means of cheques channeled through banks.

However, the administration of wages and salaries concerns the determination of the money value of the various jobs performed in the organization, as well as methods by which such money may be paid, in order to increase employee commitment, motivation and productivity.

Many factors determine the wage level in any particular organization. These factors are summarized below.

1. Nature of the job

  • Degree of skill involved.
  • Traditional mobility of workers in this job.
  • Positive and negative aspects of the work itself.
  • The social desirability of the job.
  • The demand for the job.

2. Nature of Company and Industry

  • Supply and demand for various types of labor within the industry and between industries.
  • Size of the company.
  • Wage rates and levels for similar jobs in similar companies in the same industry.
  • Wage philosophy of the employer.
  • Degree of unionization in the industry.
  • Bargaining skills of the workers’ union.
  • Business standing and strength of the company.

3. Nature of Economy and Community

  • Stage of the business cycle (prosperity or recession)
  • Current profit level in business.
  • Wage rates in the community and elsewhere.
  • Cost of living in the community.
  • Non-wage advantages accruing to employees.
  • Legislation on minimum wages

Generally, the first and most important factor is the nature of the job itself. This will usually be established on the basis of detailed job analysis and evaluation.

A job requiring higher skill and effort will tend to be paid higher than one that requires less skill and responsibility or effort. Next is the importance of the company and the industry in which the company is located. In Africa, for example, small firms have usually argued for exclusion from the law on minimum wages. Finally, and also of great importance, are factors which derive from the nature of the economy and community.

A major feature of the country’ economy is the frequent settlement of wage levels, through commissions appointed by the government for the sole purpose of reviewing salaries.

Methods of Payment of Wages and Salaries

Many methods exist for paying wages and salaries and companies will usually choose a method to reflect their own objectives, the type of personnel being considered and past practice or planned innovations in the organization. These are:

  • Straight Salary: This is fixed at the beginning of the employment contract, and except for deductions specially provided for, or rapid upward mobility, does not vary from month to month. Usually, since the increase in the salary depends upon promotion, the method has to be closely linked to the periodic appraisals of performance conducted in the organization.
  • Time Wages: Some employee’s earnings are based on the number of hours or days worked, without regards to output. Increases in wages in such time wage system can only be obtained by the employees doing overtime work. A variant of this system is the shift-premium system, where higher rates of pay may be attached to different shifts, depending upon judgments as to the relative difficulty in performing on any of the shifts. In general, the time-wage system provides for minimum incentive since it is not tied to output. It, therefore, lends itself to use in those organizations where time-utilization is an important index of actual work done.
  • Piece-Rate Wages: This system involves paying employees a stated amount of money for each piece or unit of work produced. The system often includes a bonus payment, which the employee receives in excess of standard performance. This latter factor and the whole philosophy behind it greatly facilitate performance.
  • Commission Payment: Salespersons are usually paid on a commission basis. The commission is a fixed sum of money or percentage of the value of each unit of the product or service sold; thus it is, in effect, a piece-rate system. Some companies pay only on this basis, in which case employees who have made no sales for the period receive no salary for the period. In some other companies, there is a fixed salary, plus other money made on a commission basis. Commission payments are used widely insurance companies, in the payment of petrol attendants at service stations, and in some specialty stores, or those that specialize in door-to-door selling.

Whatever method of wages or salary payment is used, the overall objective must be to relate the money wage to actual performance on the job. This carries with it the implication that an effective wage and salary system must be one that motivates employees to superior performance. In a developing economy where there is still a great deal of poverty among the working class, the administration of the wages and salaries programme becomes one of the important elements, in the organization’s overall motivational system.

Industrial Relations

This is a subject of growing importance in many, if not all, Nigerian business organizations. This is not surprising, considering the fact that in 1977/1978, there were as many as 144 strikes in the private sector, and 9 strikes in the public sector, involving 97,832 workers or a total loss of 448,335.7 man days.

The fact then is that the achievement of organizational objectives depends a great deal upon the existence of industrial harmony. In turn, the achievement of industrial harmony requires the application of a number of industrial relations techniques. Generally, however, these techniques will be effective, depending upon whether or not the management has an adequate understanding of the nature of industrial relations.

The Nature of Industrial Relations

Many writers on industrial relations have expressly been concerned with providing solutions to the practical, ongoing issue of industrial conflict. Thus, although there are a lot of publications under the general subject area of industrial relations, there have been few conceptual discussions of the nature of industrial relations. It has generally been assumed that the nature of industrial relations is synonymous with industrial conflict.

Certainly, the world of employment and work is pervaded by rules of various kinds, whose major objective is to regulate the relationship between the two major industrial groups-management and labor. Also, the institutions which devise implement and maintain these rules are of great importance in the study of industrial relations. However, a closer examination of this focus shows that in terms of coverage, at least, the understanding of industrial relations which it provides is certainly inadequate.

For example, rules are usually made in relation to some situation which has been experienced. This experience, which is the heart of industrial relations, thus precedes the making of the rules themselves. A good example of this is provided by the 1976 regulations on the structure of Nigerian trade unions. The regulations constituted all the industrial unions into one central organization. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) arose specifically from the experience of over half a century when the industrial unions could not on their own form one central labor organization for any reasonable length of time. Similarly, recent debates about splitting the Nigerian Labour Congress into two rival labor federations arose from the success of the NLC in organizing the week-long national strike of 1981. Again, the procedure devised by the government for settling disputes and resolving industrial conflicts in business and other organizations arose from the unsatisfactory experience of most organizations with past procedures. The implication then is that ‘rule’ provides only one aspect of the scope of industrial relations.

A different view on the nature of industrial relations is provided by writers who adopt a political perspective on organizations. Richard Hyman, who belongs to this group, has concluded that ‘an unceasing power struggle is a central feature of industrial relations’ power is the ability to determine the parameters of one’s own conduct and action. It is the ability to control one’s own conduct and action. It is the ability to control one’s own situation.

The actors in the industrial relations situation – managers and workers – are seen from this perspective as being involved in a constant struggle to control the situation under which they both severally and jointly work along the line dictated by their class and other interests. From the point of view of this book, this latter perspective has a lot to recommend it; the study of the struggle between managers and workers for control over workplace relations.

This understanding of industrial relation pays particular attention to the processes and practical nature of industrial relations since it suggests that industrial relations are an ongoing practice in which rules merge to regulate these practices, only in turn to be affected by the same practices. In a developing economy, this understanding of industrial relations is certainly realistic. It directs attention to, rather than away from, the objective differences in the positions, as well as interests of managers and workers, which are often more pronounced and easier to perceive in the early stages of industrialization.

Nigerian Trade Unions

To perform effectively, the personnel manager, as indeed all managers in the business organization, must understand the nature, functions, and structure of trade unions, especially those whose activities directly influence the operations of their business. A unique characteristic of Nigerian Trade Union Law is that it recognizes the right of employees and employers to form trade unions. A trade union under the law is thus any combination of workers or employers, whether temporary or permanent, the purpose of which is to regulate the terms and conditions of employment of workers. While most Nigerian workers are organized under one central labor organization the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), most employers have organized in various trade or employers’ associations.

Some of the problems that managers experience in industrial relations can be reduced if they adequately understand the motivation of workers to join unions. In fact, as will be shown later, one major cause of industrial conflict in Nigeria is related either to the anti-union practices of management, or refusal by management to recognize or allow the formation of unions. Beyond the provision of the law which currently authorizes the automatic membership of workers in many industrial unions, workers experience a real need to belong to a union. One reason is that membership of a union gives the worker greater bargaining power, in relation to an employer who is seen as all-powerful. Again, for most workers, the union is the only avenue of communicating their aims, ideas, and feelings to management. Additionally, the worker often sees the union as protecting him or her against discrimination by management. Finally, belonging to a union often satisfies worker’s social needs for affiliation, belonging and love. In a business environment with all its alienating tendencies, this last function of unions is of crucial advantage to management. The first attempts to form a union in Nigeria were towards the end of the last century. However, those attempts were seriously resisted by the colonial government in the country.

The Role of Government

The third actor in the industrial relations situation is the government. Government is an actor, not only because it is a major employer of wage labor in Nigeria, but also because it often sets the parameters within which management and labor interact. It has often been pointed out that because of the first role of government, that is, as an employer; it cannot act as a neutral arbiter between management and labor, over industrial relations problems. Secondly, the interests of the government in a capitalist society, it is also stated, always coincide with the interests of the employer, ruling class. Thus, both the ideology and practice of industrial relations are said to be permeated, very heavily, with what the employer class, through government, often wants.

The more important point to emphasize, however, is that these criticisms confirm, rather than take anything away from the crucial role of government, in the conduct of industrial relations. Often, many employers in other organizations follow the practice of government as an employer. Much more importantly, the laws and regulations made by the government in relation to trade unions, employers’ associations, trade union activities in essential services, and the methods of settlement of industrial disputes, have usually formed the basis of the contrived relationships between management and unions.

Therefore, changes in government practices as employers, and in government legislation, have often led to sweeping changes in many areas of industrial relations practices in private sector organizations. Sometimes, these changes have led to greater industrial harmony. At other times, they have led to great industrial unrest. Clear examples of the latter case are provided by widespread agitations which often accompany the publication of the reports of commissions appointed by the government, on wages and conditions of work.

The Nature and Causes of Industrial Conflict

A major advantage of the definition of industrial relations, in terms of the struggle for control over workplace relations, is that it directs attention to the possibility of emergency conflicts between managers and workers. And indeed, the subject of industrial conflict – its nature, causes as well as management – is the central and most crucial aspect of industrial relations.

Although strike activity is the most overt expression of industrial conflict, it is not a full expression of the phenomenon. Although strikes may be taken to denote the existence of conflict, the absence of strikes does not necessarily signify an absence of conflict. In other words, strikes are but one of many expressions of industrial conflict. Workers use many sanctions and strategies in pursuit of their goals, machine breakage during early industrialization, working to rule, industrial sabotage, labor turnover, and absenteeism.

On the part of managers, conflict may be expressed in open violence-shooting, imprisonment or retrenchment of workers, lockouts, or in more subtle forms, such as the disorganization of established unions, and the prevention of the formation of unions, the maintenance of a large army of unemployed, hoarding of information, etc. Industrial conflict, therefore, has to be understood in terms much broader than that provided by the strike.

As a working definition, we shall understand industrial conflict to denote actions taken by either employers or employees, which are designed to maintain or increase their control over workplace relations, against the wishes and resistances of others. Among these actions, the strike is the most prominent.

A correct understanding of the nature of the industrial conflict is an essential component in any strategy directed towards its management. Another equally important component is the understanding of the numerous cause of industrial conflict. In a review of the data on business and non-business organizations, the following factors as being the most important causes of industrial conflict in Africa, most especially Nigeria.

  • Wages
  • Conditions of service
  • Discipline and termination
  • Hours of work and overtime rate
  • Allowance and bonus
  • Anti-union and union recognition
  • Irregular payment of wages
  • Refusal of bargain
  • Violation of agreement
  • Promotion and grading
  • Removal of management
  • Commission award
  • Benefits

The Management of Industrial Conflict

There are two basic mechanisms for the regulation of industrial conflict in business organizations. The first is that which is laid down by the government, the second is that which evolves from within the organization as it adapts to experience. Government regulations on the settlement of industrial conflicts are contained in the Trade Disputes Act No. 7 of 1976 and provide as follows:

  1. The parties to a trade dispute should first attempt to settle the dispute by means of voluntary grievance procedures established by them, e.g., negotiation machinery.
  2. In the event of a failure to settle the dispute by means of autonomous negotiation machinery, or if no such machinery exists in the undertaking, the parties should endeavor to meet together under the presidency of a ‘mediator’, mutually agreed upon or appointed by them, within 7 days of the occurrence of the dispute, with a view to amicable settlement.
  3. If within 14 days after a mediator has been appointed, the dispute is not settled, the dispute should forthwith be reported to the Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity, who will then proceed to exercise his powers under the Trade Disputes Act No. 7 of 1976.
  4. The Minister, in the exercise of his powers, may appoint a Conciliator, who should inquire into the causes and circumstances of the dispute and by negotiation with the parties endeavor to bring about a settlement. If a settlement of the dispute is reached within 14 days, the Conciliator reports the facts in a memorandum of the terms of settlement to the Minister. If a settlement is not reached within 14 days, or if he is satisfied that he will be unable to bring about a settlement, he should forthwith report the fact to the Minister.
  5. Within 14 days of the receipt by the Ministry of the Conciliator’s report of his inability to settle the dispute, the Minister will refer the dispute to Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) for arbitration.
  6. On receipt of the IAP awards, the Minister immediately causes to be given to the parties or their representatives, and to be published in such manner (if any) as he thinks fit a notice:

(a)        Setting out the award;

(b)        Specifying the time (not being more than 21 days from the date of publication of the notice) within which, and the manner in which, a notice of objection to the award may be given to the Minister.

If no objection to the award is given, the Minister will confirm the award, which becomes binding on the parties.

  1. If a notice of objection to the award of an arbitration tribunal is given within the time, and in the manner specified by the Minister, the trade dispute will be referred to the National Industrial Court for determination. The award of the National Industrial Court shall be final and shall be binding on the employers and workers to whom it relates as from the date of the award (or such earlier or later date as may be specified therein). In sending out the provisions of the Act to employers and trade union organizations, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity further direct the trade unions to note ‘that none of the preceding steps provides for an ‘Ultimatum’. Nor is there any provision in the Act about giving an employer an ultimatum, as a step in the process of dispute settlement. It is improper, therefore, to think that an ultimatum provides a cover or justification to embark upon industrial action including stoppage of work.

In spite of the provisions of the Decree, it has been observed that many industrial disputes have occurred, which have breached the provisions themselves. Again, it has been reported that major disputes between employers and employees have usually been settled either through collective bargaining or through conciliation and unofficial third party interventions. The implication is that the provisions of the law have been ineffective, as far as the regulation of industrial conflict has been concerned. The major reasons for this situation have been attributed to the actions of government as are borne out in the case examined below.

In 1969, five officials of the Customers Preventive Staff Union of Nigeria successfully sued the Registrar of Trade Unions to have them registered as a Union. The response of the government, which had opposed the unionization of the workers all along, was to dissolve the union by amending the trade union law by Decree No. 27. The decree provided that employees in government establishment who are authorized to bear firearms can neither form nor join existing trade unions.

Thus, the fact that government can undermine its own laws through various devices has tended to reduce confidence in the laws themselves and to encourage parties in dispute to rely more upon their own internal procedures and arrangements.

Internally, every business organization also evolves its own procedures for managing industrial conflict. The collective bargaining machinery of most firms and their grievance handling procedures are designed to resolve industrial conflict. However, no matter how elaborate these procedures are the most important strategies for dealing with industrial conflict. However, no matter how elaborate these procedures are, the most important strategies for dealing with industrial conflict are in the areas of the leadership and motivational processes in the organization. A well-motivated workforce will have less need to engage in conflict resolution. Thus, what is done in the area of motivation is by far the most important in the management of industrial conflict. Therefore, it might be well to conclude this section with the statement credited to the Director of the US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service a number of years ago:

“You can’t write any ticket or any procedure on how to handle it (industrial relations) except this: in our company – I am going to try to impress this on the industrialists here – we are going to get about the type of labor leadership that we develop by our own actions. If in dealing with labor organizations we are ethical, are entitled to the confidence of people, use fair tactics and use friendly attitudes, we will get that in return; if we are going to be militant, use underhand tactics, and fight all the time, that is the type of organized labor that we will get. So, I think we must all realize that where we are going to get about the type of leadership that we are ourselves.

This statement is an instructive as it is insightful.

 

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